Dysplasia and Orthopedic Issues

November 25, 2011

Large breed dogs are prone to orthopedic problems. The two major categories of joint problems are developmental and degenerative problems. Developmental problems include things like hip or elbow dysplasia, where the joint does not develop correctly in a number of different ways. Degenerative problems cover such things as arthritis in dogs, and cruciate ligament problems where the ligament is degenerating over time causing instability and secondary osteoarthritis.

Hip/Elbow dysplasia:
A genetic disease, dysplasia is influenced by a number of factors. Treatment often involves lifetime anti-inflammatory medications. Preventative measures are the key and weight plays a huge role in hip dysplasia.

Cruciate Ligament Tears:
ACL stands for anterior cranial cruciate and it is the ligament that keeps the knee in working order. Chasing birds and other toys at full speed can tear the ligament. Torn cruciate ligaments, just like in people need to be surgically repaired to prevent crippling arthritis.

Luxating Patellas:
Knee cap problems are also commonly seen in many breeds of dogs. The patella rests in a groove. Smaller dog’s patella’s tend to slip out of the groove to the inside or medially, and is known as medial patellar luxation.

Disc Disease:
Just as with many of us, our dogs also can have disc problems in their neck and backs. Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, Dachshunds and Lhasa Apsos are all breeds that can suffer from neck disc issues, whereas large breed dogs often have chronic lower back issues. Most of these cases can be treated conservatively with the same medications used to treat hip dysplasia. When discs become ruptured, they become surgical emergencies. The disc material can slip into the spinal canal or nerves causing intense pain or even paralysis.

Symptoms of problems:
Dogs are doing less or having more difficulty with common activities. They will take longer getting up. From there it progresses to lameness – even holding the limb up. You should also pay attention to any cracking sounds when they walk around. Keeping an eye on the dog’s gait is also very important as an indicator to any problem.

Prevention and Treatment:
The number one thing you can do for your dog is keep them at a healthy weight. Fat is a source of inflammation in the joints.

Have your veterinarian evaluate your dog’s joints at least every year

Warm up and cool down your dogs during jogs/runs and other exercise activities

Evaluate their gait when they walk or run

Drugs: there are anti-inflammatories, analgesics, and pain relievers to help treat the problems

Foods: many companies now make quality foods that are formulated for joint health. They already have some of the additives like fish oils, which help decrease inflammation. Glucosamine, chondroitin and Ester-C may help with the inflammation.  We’ll need to research if any of the supplements are proven to help in another article.

Surgery: arthroscopic repairs and treatments and biological treatments, different types of injections or replacements of tissues.

Very good site showing gait with animation and videos: http://accad.osu.edu/~hcaprett/COTA_741_sp04/CanineLO_090504.html

Interesting reading:

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